Constantly replacing PC hardware to keep up with the latest video games and software can be extremely expensive. A new mid-range GPU (RTX 3070 or RX 6800) can cost up to $600, while high-end CPU prices range up to $850.
Considering there are new CPU and GPU releases every year, paying thousands of dollars annually makes very little financial sense.
Instead of switching hardware every year or every two years, there is also the option of overclocking your current PC parts to get the extra FPS you need or to cut down the time needed for productivity tasks.
To do that, you will need the right overclocking software. In this guide, we will focus specifically on software for overclocking CPUs.
Let’s get started!
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Is A Custom CPU Overclock Worth it?
Before we start listing a bunch of different software, it might be a good idea to consider whether overclocking is worth it. Every CPU generation and model is unique, so it might turn out that your specific model won’t gain noticeable performance improvements from an OC.
Should you do it?
The answer depends on what is in your system. Older generations of both AMD and Intel CPUs may show a solid performance increase with a bump in core frequency. Some of the older generations do overclock pretty well.
Keep in mind that the results in the chart above are extreme overclocks under perfect conditions with cooling under LN2. Even so, it shows that yesterday’s low-core processors can be pushed to reach far higher frequencies (with adequate cooling).
To check whether this will be beneficial, you can perform the overclock and then run a few tests. If you see positive changes to stability and solid temperature values, you can keep your custom OC. Otherwise, you can revert back to your CPU’s default settings.
It is also possible to check out other people’s OC experiences with the same CPU.
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Intel Extreme Tuning Utility (XTU) – Intel CPUs Only
- Intuitive user interface
- Easy to use
- Built-in benchmark and stress test
- Works only for Intel CPUs
Intel’s and AMD’s processors are very different from one another, which is why a different type of software is needed to handle the overclocking.
Intel has its own software for overclocking, monitoring, and stress testing called Intel Extreme Tuning Utility or simply XTU.
What makes this software so good is its intuitive design, user-friendly interface, and overall ease of use. Of course, the actual process of overclocking is complicated, but the software can at least make things easier for you.
You can find all of the settings you need under Advanced Tuning. Here, you can easily adjust the ratio multiplier of all cores, and you can also play around with the core voltage.
Be careful not to push the core voltage too high, as that can cause higher temperature values, leading to thermal throttling or even killing your CPU.
Another huge advantage of this software is the fact that you can quickly switch over to the Stress Test and Benchmarking tabs to check the stability of your custom OC.
If you have trouble getting the hang of Intel XTU, you can always refer to the many videos and guides posted online.
AMD Ryzen Master Utility – AMD CPUs Only
- Extensive options for overclocking
- Great for overclocking RAM too
- Built-in stress test
- For AMD CPUs only
- No benchmark to compare performance changes
Just as Intel has software for its CPUs, AMD also has one called Ryzen Master Utility.
Ryzen Master is just as intuitive and useful as the Intel alternative. Naturally, it only works with AMD CPUs.
Once Ryzen Master is expanded into its Advanced View, you will have access to voltage control, memory and memory voltage control, DRAM timings, configuration, and individual core multipliers.
Once you have selected one of the profiles, you can start adjusting your custom overclock. Expanding into Manual gives you the most extensive options. Here, you can adjust anything from core multipliers to boost overrides, PFT, TDC, EDC, etc.
Alternatively, you can use AMD’s auto-overclocking feature, which attempts to adjust those values and the core voltage automatically. Naturally, the auto-overclocking feature won’t be as good or efficient as making adjustments manually, but it’s still better than nothing.
This is especially good when you consider that Intel’s alternative does not offer such an option.
It’s also worth trying to enable Precision Boost Overdrive (PBO) which can be explained as a more complex form of auto overclocking. This could potentially deliver better performance without you having to waste time adjusting overclocking settings.
ClockTuner For Ryzen (CTR) – AMD CPUs only
- Fully automated overclocking and OC optimization
- Easier to understand/use than Ryzen Master Utility
- Third-party software could lead to problems
- Limited to Zen 3 and Zen 2 processors
Overclocking CPUs is not an easy process, and it probably shouldn’t be. No matter how intuitive XTU or Ryzen Master Utility becomes, it is still going to be complicated to find the perfect combination of voltage/frequency increases.
Fortunately, there is third-party software that can make things a bit easier for Ryzen users. ClockTuner For Ryzen (CTR) was developed solely by 1USMUS, the creator of the Ryzen DRAM Calculator. It is a useful tool for RAM overclocking.
Why use CTR rather than Ryzen Master? Well, as the overclocking process is fully automated, it makes for a much easier experience for users with no previous overclocking knowledge.
It also provides settings for further custom OC customization.
With the click of a button, CTR can analyze your CPU to determine its “silicon quality,” which it will then use to figure out its overclocking potential. From there, CTR will play around with frequencies and voltages to deliver a solid overclock or maybe even an undervolt.
It will also conduct a few stress tests to ensure system stability.
The benefit of using CTR is that it could improve (or maintain) your CPU’s performance while considerably improving its energy efficiency.
Of course, 1USMUS has imposed limitations/protection to ensure that your processor won’t exceed the voltage borders.
Keep in mind, even with those limitations in place, your processor is never risk-free. Any kind of increase in core voltage could potentially lead to damage.
Note: CTR only supports Zen 3 (Ryzen 5950X, 5900X, 5800X, 5600X), Zen 2 (Threadrippers, Ryzen 3900X, 3800X, 3700X, 3600x and others) CPUs and APUs (Ryzen PRO 4750G, 4650G, 4350G).
If you want to fully utilize CTR and its customization options, refer to the 1USMUS guide.
Last but not least, there is overclocking with BIOS. The BIOS is part of every system’s motherboard, meaning it isn’t software you download and use on your operating system. Still, it is extremely useful and can be great for overclocking, so it is relevant to the question at hand.
However, BIOS can be far more complicated to figure out as it is less intuitive. Some BIOS don’t even have support for a mouse, so you can imagine how bad the user interface can be. What makes things even worse is that every motherboard brand has a different style/design for its BIOS. Even models from the same brand can be very different from each other.
This shouldn’t deter you from the idea of overclocking BIOS, as this is where you can achieve the best possible overclock for your processor.
To access your BIOS, you will have to hit the appropriate keyboard shortcut while your system is booting up. Usually, it is either Delete, F2, F10, or F12.
If you are having trouble getting the hang of BIOS, we recommend referring to the motherboard’s manual or checking out videos explaining the settings of that specific version of the BIOS.
When it comes to overclocking CPUs, users are limited to a few programs. Given the effectiveness and accuracy of the software available, you won’t need anything else.
In the end, CPU and RAM overclocking are always best done through BIOS.